Saturday, April 11, 2009

Movin' on out...

Hello out there lovely readers. To better track the traffic on this blog o'mine, I've decided to move the whole shebang over to Wordpress. Please visit me at:
http://adventuresinschnooville.wordpress.com/

Don't forget to change your RSS feed accordingly!

Avec Amour,

Schnoo

Erasing My Honesty Box

Finally - Rosiehardy - Flickr

I spend too much time on Facebook. The iPhone didn't help with this problem. As I grapple with this, I'm trying not to judge myself too much for it. Hopefully it will lead to greater communication skills and meaningful relationships. Yesterday, while chatting with someone (Facebook chat) I realized that I had somehow installed an application called "Honesty Box". This disturbed me.

First, because I had no recollection of installing such a thing. Second, because the very principal behind it is ridiculous; the idea is for people to anonymously post what they really think of you. I deleted the application this morning.

To say that I don't care what people think about me would be a lie. Of course I do. I think we all do to some extent. The fact is, I already know the opinions of the people I most care about. I don't need people to scrawl secret messages to me and leave them in my inbox. Also, I would hope that if someone has something to say, they will think enough of themselves, and their opinions to not hide behind a veil of anonymity (I'll be spell-checking the hell out of that, "anonymous" is a word I can never spell.)

In semi-related topics, my friends are incredible. I feel really fortunate to have such giving, loving people in my life. Collectively they are all intelligent, creative, kind, hilarious, and entertaining. The inspire me to be a better person, and hopefully a better friend.

I think the people we keep close to us are a reflection of who we are, or who we aspire to be. Never underestimate the restorative powers of a quiet dinner in, with good people, good wine, great food, and a giant, three-legged dog snoring peacefully on your lap.

Friday poem:

Alright team, here's the mission at hand:
It's still in development, but here's what I've planned;
I'm setting my sights on an interesting prize,
Past goals haven't really been goals of this size.
Your help will be needed, your thoughts and ideers.
Your love and support, to fight through all my fears.
Since the thought first occurred, I believe it's expanded,
The stakes are now higher, I could leave empty-handed.
And perhaps once in motion I'll be let down;
By bad social skills, or by the buzz in this town.
Perhaps I'll be bored, or perhaps be offended.
Perhaps expectations should be open-ended?
I know on some levels, this idea is crazy,
And I know in some ways it's just me being lazy,
But the whole big idea speaks to a theme,
Of setting your sights and daring to dream.
So if I get shut-out, if defense is tight,
I will say that I tried it with all of my might.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Camel Toe Ballet


Solitude - Rosiehardy - Flickr

It has indeed been a Good Friday, so far.

I hatched a hilarious plan before bed last night, and look forward to hashing it out with some friends over dinner this evening. If properly executed, it could be a source of endless hijinks and amusement. At this point it's a secret, but you can bet I'll be writing about it on my own.

Hatching this plan made everything seem a little lighter today. I didn't sleep very well. The full moon made me crazy, and then the ass of a friend accidentally called me from a bar somewhere at 3am. My cat was enthusiastically trying to paw me into consciousness by 8:00, which I fought to sleep through, and then at last when my aunt called at 10 am to see if I wanted to go for a coffee-fetching walk, I got up.

I enjoyed coffee, and good conversation. Back at the Fortress of Solitude, I showered and got dressed, and pulled my favourite crazy shoes out of winter storage. These shoes illicit mixed responses. People either love them or they evoke a feeling of vague nausea. They are blue satin, with a Japanese style pattern. Flat, and rubber soled, they have blue satin ribbons to tie them on at the ankles (like ballet slippers) and the toes are cleft. I have to wear toe-socks with them. They make me look like I have a hoof. Or that I am a Ninja. They have set the tone for my entire day. I am a fleet-footed ninja ballerina with the gracefulness of a plains-grazing herbivore. Rock and roll...

I had great shuffle results on my way downtown to meet my friend Lenni for Indian lunch on Queen street (try Little India. It's fantastic and cheap!). All the songs were the right songs. People smiled at me everywhere, clearly not nauseous at all. A cute boy I haven't seen in a while got on the subway, and we chatted. He told me I had pretty hair.

Lunch was grand. Lenni was great. We walked the entire length of Queen to Trinity Bellwoods. From Trinity Bellwoods, we headed north to College, where we were trapped in the Good Friday procession. This is where we parted ways.

The streets were full of people, the air was filled with somber music, and everyone was quiet, and still. I poped my earplugs back in, and walked all the way home, admiring the multitudes of swarthy Italian boys. It felt like I was back in high school.

I'm off now to dinner. I feel like I need a glass of Merlot and quiet conversation. It's been an interesting week, and I'm incredibly grateful for a day or two with nothing to do.

I burnt a perfect triangle into my forearm.
I met a stranger who isn't a stranger, who I've been wanting to meet for many months.
I made a choice based entirely on instinct.
I had my heart broken by news from a friend.
I didn't sleep. Twice.
I got a phone call from an ass.
I counted the vertebrae of my increasingly skinny house cat.
I was inspired by Facebook, and the recent addition of an exciting new friend, to try something entirely ridiculous.

Jesus didn't have to die for my sins. I'm kind of ok with them. Plus with shoes like these, who WOULDN'T forgive me?

It's Not Today, It's Tomorrow


These Walls I Can Take - Rosiehardie - Flickr

However, I will still post my Thursday poem...


Fierce victories for these tiny warriors;
With every step each foot placed before the other
Marching towards over-priced coffee,
and outlook,
and too many carbohydrates for lunch.
Pressed shirts, coats thoroughly caressed by the lint roller,
and for a lucky few a pat on the ass on the way out the door.

There's one who wears a hand knit hat with flaps for his ears, in spite of his charcoal gray suit;
One last vestige of his days of touring with improvisational folk rock bands.
He's old enough now to be grateful to be alive.

The only sign of impending spring is the too-bright sun that flashes between the houses.
I think of my vintage sunglasses, tucked inside a drawer at home.
I think of the day ahead and the summit of to-dos and to-don'ts.
I think of you and of all the longing in your heart;
Your yearning for recognition,
The sorrow that spills out in the smallest gestures,
and the pain that you have carried for so long.

I would donate my portion of sunshine today
If I thought it could cast light into the shadowy corners that have been so long neglected.
I would dedicate each song selected by the forces of the universe
that dictate the shuffle of my playlist
If I thought they would feel like laughter.

With Ella in my ears and a low fat double caramel macchiato poised at my lips
I will raise my biodegradable paper cup and salute you,
My brave new friend.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Honour of National Poetry Month

Like Ivory - Olivia Bee - Flickr

Evidently, April has been designated the month to celebrate poetry. I shall pretend that April began today, and will post a poem each day until May. Because it is Spring, and creativity is bubbling up like a nearly defrosted brook.



Haiku for Wednesday, April 8th

Sister of the rain
A flood wells up from the cave
Now truth garden stirs

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Self-Fulfilling Broccoli

I thought about something for a good portion of the weekend, most of yesterday, and then again today.

As is so often the case in Schnooville, this thought permeated my brain and trickled out into the real world, where a fabulous singer performed a song she had written on this exact topic at a fund raising event that I attended last night. I'm pretty sure she was singing it for me.

I am irresistibly, undeniably drawn to brilliant, talented men who are almost always completely emotionally unavailable.

Like a determined primate, I get my hands on these coconuts and poke and prod and bang away to try to get at the fruity pulp. Sometimes I can manage a trickle of sweet gooey inner juice, but usually I end up with bloody knuckles and pure frustration. And an empty belly...


Why am I programmed this way? Is it merely bad luck? Have I just not met the artist who is highly skilled when it comes to the emotional medium? Is there some masochistic satisfaction in being the sole confidante and supporter for said brilliant mind? Am I addicted to the morbid romance of the tortured artist as suitable companion to the bohemian mama I fancy myself to be?

Why do we so crave what we know is just bad for us?

I fantasize about a life filled with passion, and fire, and creativity, and parties, and love, and feasting, and fat babies who are most certainly precocious. In this imaginary world, my partner in crime has always been and artist. A creator. A maker of something wonderful. Sometimes moody, sometimes complicated, but able to reveal their vulnerability to me. There is no room anymore in this fantasy for narcissism. It is a fairly balanced existence, and there is no illusion of perfection, but a real solid sense of happiness permeates everything. I have about five good years left before I give up on this dream.

Life now is all about making healthier choices. Heart-friendly decisions.

A boy who rode trains once told me to imagine what you want, and you will achieve it.
I think I've got the imagining down. But something is wrong here. Maybe wrong is a poor choice of words. Something is not working. Also a poor selection. I am not quite there yet. I am not ready for this imaginary scenario to be made real. Do you feel ready when it's supposed to happen? Do you wake up in the morning and say "O.k. here we go...my heart is open, and I'm going to share it with..."?

How do you get back on track?

For the first time, possibly ever, I have learned to love being alone. I'm just starting to really like it on these shores. Even though the sand still sticks to my damp skin in a most unpleasant fashion, I'm suddenly aware of how delicious it feels between my toes, and now I can't stop making foot-fists. I want to stand on this beach and clench my digits and smell the salty air. When I look behind me, down the path I'm walking, that second set of footprints in the sand still belongs to my imaginary friend Jesus.

It's gonna take some pretty big feet to fill those.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Cleaning


My mom is one of twelve children. French Canadian Catholic. All of her brothers and sisters are quite close in age, and all remained fairly geographically close. I grew up with a giant tangle of cousins and other relations at each major holiday, which was always a huge celebration filled with food and music.

My grandfather was an alcoholic. I never met him. He died long before I was even imagined, which is another story I hope to be able to share with you one day. As a result, many of his personal demons were passed along to the next generation. Fortunately, most of the family began to deal with this as I grew a little older. My point is that once the Adult Children and Twelve Step started, the parties changed, and so too did the family. For the better, mostly.

My mom and dad are amazing people, with fairly simple needs. My father is brilliant, one of the smartest people I know, but he and my mother have a dormant sense of adventure. My brother and I sometimes joke that we were hatched or found on the doorstep because in many ways we are so unlike them. One of the beauties of a huge family, is that sometimes you can see a lot of yourself in other relations. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

About six and a half years ago, just after I got married, one of my aunts was diagnosed with cancer. The family obviously rallied around her, and this was difficult. She and I were not terribly close, but it was scary to watch all the same. She was tough as nails about her chemo, and her three adult children were really supportive. We thought she would make it, but then they discovered that the cancer had spread.

Almost one year after this aunt's diagnosis, my other aunt was also diagnosed with cancer. Hers was immediately pronounced terminal, and all that they could do was give her more time through chemo. (It's funny, as I'm typing this I feel like I'm describing something I saw in a movie, that never actually happened). As my aunt Nicole was dying, my aunt Jackie watched it all unfold, and saw more or less what was in store for her.

Jackie was diagnosed on her birthday. She lived just over a year, and died a week or so after her next one. That was in November. Now you must forgive me, because during that period of my life, the chronology gets very fuzzy, and this sounds extraordinary even to my ears, but if I remember correctly, in January, after Jackie's death, my mother's eldest sister was found dead of an aneurysm. If it didn't happen that following January, it happened the year after. Either way, I'm sure you can imagine the incredibly bleak times we all endured. To top all of this off, my Grandmaman, our great matriarch, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and had to be moved into a home. Everything fell apart, skeletons were tossed out of closets, horrible secrets came bubbling to the surface, and I thought my poor mother would die of a broken heart.

Incidentally, this is also when my marriage fell apart, and shortly after this I started into the toxic relationship I finally ended in March of 2008. Of all of the things that happened during this horrific time, I think Jackie's death is what affected me the most deeply.

Jackie was the person in my family who made me make sense. In my opinion, we even looked alike. It's wild actually.

My mother and Jackie were very close, so she was always a big part of our life. She was my brother's godmother, and they also had a very close relationship. She was beautiful, in a very soft, feminine way. Curvaceous, auburn-haired, she used to tan chestnut brown in the summers in her garden, wearing beautiful sundresses with ample cleavage, swaying to Latin music. I think she had a fantasy world in which her blood was definitely not French Canadian. Her partner of over fourteen years was a swarthy Italian, whom she had a son with; my cousin Benjamin who is really just incredible.

Jackie's partner was very wealthy when they first became involved, so she lived an extraordinary life with him. They had numerous homes, and spent a lot of time traveling. They were very generous, and always hosted huge parties for our family and their friends. Jackie LOVED to cook. This is where I got my love of cooking from. Every occasion was an excuse to pour all her love and attention to detail into everything she touched; the food, the table. Life was filled with her artistry, down to the absolute minutiae.

My earliest memories of her were of her reading to me. As well as a love for cooking, she gave me a love for books and language. She used to bring me the most exquisite pop-up books, (I still absolutely adore these). When she would read she was so animated, and hilarious, the stories came alive and I became hooked. One of the best books she ever introduced us to was one she bought for her own son called "I'll Love You Forever". It's not a pop-up, but a beautiful story about aging. There is a song throughout the book, and she made up a melody to go with it that she used to sing to us at bedtime, and we began this little ritual in our own home with our own mom:

"I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

She was always singing, and playing the guitar or the piano. There are so many photos of her young and fresh faced, wearing a tube top with her long, beautiful hair over one shoulder, throwing her head back in laughter.

When I was very young (perhaps ten) Benjamin came to live with us for awhile. We were told that his mother was very sick. She had a disease called Alcoholism. My mother explained that it was something that our family suffered from, and some people couldn't control the amount of alcohol that they drank, and it made them sick, and made them loose control over how they behaved. She said it was very dangerous, and that Benjamin's father had arranged for her to go to a very special, very excellent hospital in America where she would get the help she needed to deal with her disease. Ben was about four. He lived between our home and his, with his very busy father, who did his best, I suppose, at being there for him. I remember on that first night Ben, my brother, and I all slept together in my bed because he was so scared and upset.

Jackie pulled through, and her life changed remarkably. They ended up buying a beautiful home on Lake Eerie, a place called Morgan's Point, and this home became the hub for most family events. She had a garden full of vegetables and herbs, a hammock always ready with a duvet and pillows, something wonderful on or in the stove (which often included breathtaking hand made, hand braided Challa bread) her stained glass studio, her sewing room, her painting room, and always music. I felt so alive there. Hands down, the best family Christmas we ever had was at this house. My cousins made a drum circle on that occasion and the whole family went nuts making music. The house was literally shaking with the noise, and there was a raging bonfire outside, overlooking the lake. Magic. I was seventeen.

(This is getting very difficult...)

Jackie ended up leaving Ben's father. I don't doubt that he loved her, but he had some issues, and those became too much for her to bear. He also lost nearly all of his wealth in a bad investment, and though she tried to be supportive, he kind of crumpled under the heartbreak of all that. Sadly, what this meant is that the house on Morgan's point was eventually sold.

Jackie was able to buy her own small house in Welland. It was a modest townhouse, but it was hers, and she made it beautiful, with another fabulous garden. She was unbelievably good with plants, and so creative. She started making these beautiful, folky birdhouses. We all have one, and though it matches NONE of my decor, it is one of my most prized possessions. My friends are usually horrified by it.

She worked for a long while as the cook in a nursing home. She LOVED elderly people, and they absolutely adored her. The management weren't so fond of her though, because she was also a shit-disturber, and very vocal when she saw that things weren't being handled well. (Also something I learned from her.) She ended up leaving, which broke her heart.

Fortunately, she was hired by a local nursery. A family-run business, where she fit right in. She created a job for herself designing gift planters of assorted plants. She was over the moon about this job, and she really felt like she had found her niche. The family loved her, and she shared a very special bond with the middle son who has Down's syndrome.

She also had this burning desire to live in an old church, so it became a fun family quest to try to make this happen. We always indulged Jackie's crazy ideas, because she had a real knack for setting the ball in motion so that she was able to realize the things she dreamed up (something else I think I've got going for me).

Jackie loved monkeys.

Jackie dated briefly, but after Ben's dad left (when Ben was about 11) Jackie never had another serious romantic relationship.

This was Jackie's life when she learned, on her birthday, that she was going to die probably within that year.

When I got the news, my husband and I had recently moved back to Canada after trying to settle in the States. Because of September 11th, my Visa was taking forever, and something deep inside me just wanted to be home. We were living in Burlington. My mom called me to tell me the news, and I don't remember anything after that, but Gordy tells me that I crumpled, and then started making sounds he'd never heard from a person before.

Ben was just 20 when this happened, and was in no position to take care of his mom.

Jackie put her beautiful little house up for sale, and then began giving away everything she owned. I can't really find the words to describe how surreal it was to watch someone sift through a lifetime of their treasured possessions and hand everything off. I know purging is supposed to be therapeutic, but I can't believe that applies if you're doing it because you are dying.

Jackie also began to research palliative care facilities. Her plan was to use the money from the sale of her house, and her possessions to pay for care when she became too weak to care for herself. She was FIERCELY independent. And STUBBORN.

My brother was still living with my folks, and my husband and I were over for dinner when my mom told us she had something she wanted to talk to us about. She and my father were going to offer to let Jackie move in with them, and they wanted to make sure that was ok with us. It was really important to my mom that I understood that Jackie would probably die in our childhood bedroom, and she really wanted me to be ok with this. I said yes immediately, as I couldn't bear the thought of Jackie dying among strangers.

Jackie resisted the offer at first (of course) but eventually she did move in. My mom's employer was incredible, and arranged for her to take an extended leave of absence to care for Jackie as long as she needed to. I find it so incredibly hard to describe how selfless and amazing my mother is without getting really emotional, so I suppose it's good that I'm typing this to you.

I won't paint a long, drawn out picture of what this arrangement was like. My parents' house became filled with extra furnishings, and suddenly they had a woman smoking pot every night in their backyard (Jackie had no appetite without it because of the chemo). Her tumours were in her liver and her colon, so eventually it became almost impossible for her to eat at all. Imagine a woman who loved food picking quietly at the meal I had cooked, unable to really even smell food without getting nauseous. She wasted away slowly before our very eyes.

Somewhere in here is where my marriage ended and I moved back to Toronto. I started a part time job at a talent agency, but my heart sure wasn't in it. I also started the burlesque troupe just prior to my separation. I was fueled by the need to swallow life whole, and I made some fairly rash decisions during that time. Ben was also living in Toronto during that time, and I put him in our shows, and made sure he was surrounded by beautiful, talented women who adored him.

As the end grew closer, there were some remarkable moments. Jackie found a fairly amazing Christian centre for worship, and formed a bond with the female minister there, who she asked to officiate at her memorial. She then set about planning the entire thing from start to finish, with the help of my cousin Jeffrey, who is both charming and eloquent and who would be the m.c. It was absolutely top secret, and we were all told that we could only do the things she had requested of us, except for Ben who was allowed to do (or not do) whatever he wanted.

Also, Ben told me that he wanted to bring her a monkey. A live monkey. Our cousin Linda has always loved and worked with animals, and she had some strange friends who lived in the sticks who had an exotic animal rescue organization. They happened to have a baby chimpanzee, which she brought to Jackie. Ben surprised her with this, and it was absolutely priceless.

Soon Jackie couldn't leave her bed anymore. She also needed a morphine drip because the pain was getting intolerable. This was in November, just before her birthday. My father began sleeping in the rec room because my mother had to get up multiple times through the night to dose Jackie. My brother was sleeping anywhere he could so he wouldn't have to go home.

Jackie made it clear, on one of her rare lucid moments that she did NOT want to celebrate her birthday that year. We gathered at my parent's house on her birthday anyway, and shared a quiet meal. After supper, we all went up to tuck her in. Our little gathering consisted of my mom, two of my aunts, and my cousin Jeffrey. Jackie woke up and smiled at all of us. (at this point she was completely skeletal. The way she looked will be forever burned into my brain) She began to sing the "I'll love you forever" song, but she was so week, she couldn't make very much sound. We helped her, and tried very hard not to cry. Afterward, we said goodnight, and as we were about to leave, she whispered "Hey...aren't you going to sing me Happy Birthday?" Of course we gave her one more song, then we all clung to each other in the living room downstairs.

About a week later, I woke up and felt very strange. It was a feeling similar to butterflies in my stomach, but different...I called work and told them I wasn't coming in because I had to go home to Hamilton, then I caught the next Go Train. When I walked in the house my mom said "I'm so glad you came home today." The air in the house felt like it was humming. My father and brother were both at work, and so it was just my mom, one of my aunts and I in the quiet of the house. The only sound that could be heard was from a baby monitor in the centre of the room. My mother was told by the home care nurses that this was a good idea to monitor Jackie's breathing. It was terrifying because the sounds were not human, and every now and then they would just stop, and we would all hold our breath and wait to hear if they would start again.

Dinner that evening was quiet, and sombre, but strangely warm. Both of my parents kept telling me how glad there were that I was home, and I felt the same.

I slept in my mom's room that night. When we were kids sleeping in my parents' bed was such a comforting treat. This was a strange role-reversal where I felt like I was comforting my mother. My aunt slept on the cot in Jackie's room, so she could give her any required morphine injections. It was difficult to fall asleep. I felt as though there was nothing else in the world except for what was happening under that roof.

At about two am I woke up because it felt like the window I was beside was thrown open and a cold wind was blowing through the room. I realized I was dreaming and I fell asleep again. At two thirty my aunt came to wake us because Jackie had died.

Ben was in town that night too, at his father's. He tells me that he had just gotten home from a bar, and was outside smoking before going in to bed, when he heard, very softly, his mother call his name.

That night, that entire day, made me believe in the idea of god again. I felt incredible power at work, something so much greater than me, vibrant all around my family and I. I'm not sure what that means, as I still don't identify with organized religion, but it restored my faith in SOMETHING.

Jackie's memorial was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. There were SO many people there who really loved her. And the chapel was FILLED with the most glorious plants and flowers. She had my cousin create a gorgeous slide show to Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World (yeah, a bit cliche, but I STILL can't hear that song now without needing to take deep breaths) My cousin Jeffrey was a fabulous m.c. and Jackie asked me to read a poem that was read at my Nana's funeral(my father's mother who Jackie was very close to). It is by an American poet called Henry Van Dyke:

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says "There, she is gone."
"Gone where?"
"Gone from my sight. That is all."
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at that moment when someone says "There, she is gone"
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout -
"Here she comes!"

Ben decided to share "She's Only Happy In the Sun" by Ben Harper. He wanted to play and sing it live, but was fairly certain he wouldn't get through it.

Watching Jackie die changed me forever. Every single day of my life I am grateful. Sometimes I am tired, sometimes I wallow a little in my own melancholy, but no matter what is happening, I am so, so glad to still be in the world, trying to savour every rich experience. Whenever I feel joy, or see beauty in the world I think of Jackie, who taught me so much about the riches that are everywhere, and I try to see things for her. I try to taste for her, hear for her, laugh for her, and love for her, simply because I can.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Anniversary


I think, actually I'm pretty positive, that it was almost exactly one year ago that I ended a four year relationship. I stayed at our home for a couple of weeks, which is completely inadvisable, and shortly thereafter, which is EXACTLY one year ago today, I moved out. I left my old life, my home, and my dog behind and put everything I own into storage, moved into the basement of my friends' house, and slept for almost a month on an air mattress. Then I moved (during the TTC strike) the air mattress and my suitcase to my cousin's apartment where I house-sat for a week. From there I flew to Paris, jacked up my credit card, and came back a new woman.

And here I am. One year, and a whole lot of debt, later.

I didn't realize it was my anniversary of freedom until my ex text messaged me today regarding the dog. It wasn't an unpleasant exchange. It actually wasn't much of an exchange at all, but he made it very clear that he was feeling the impact of this date in a not-so-positive way. I am feeling like it's the celebration of a great milestone.

Despite ongoing financial white-knuckling, I have survived. I am paying my bills, living on my own, and free of the stress, the drama, the complication, and the pain of my former life. I've still got a long way to go, but I've accomplished a lot in terms of saving up emotional currency. I have learned more about the person that I am in this last year than I have in most of my life. By removing myself from a less-than-ideal situation, I have been able to sort through and process so many HUGE life-altering experiences, and I've come a long way in coming to terms with these things.

And yet, there is an element of sadness. Despite the toxicity of the relationship, despite its dysfunction, there was real love there, on both sides. True, some of us were not so good at demonstrating this love most of the time, but I cannot believe unbridled masochism kept me there for four years. I loved this man deeply. I loved the hope that I saw in him, I loved his brilliance, his talent, and his moments of raw vulnerability. I believed (sometimes against all reason) in the potential in him, and in us. I do myself no service whatsoever if I continue to beat myself up for that. The mistakes I made had everything to do with not seeing greater potential in myself, and believing that I did not deserve love that was uncomplicated and easy.

I believe that such love can exist. Perhaps not all the time, perhaps not consistently, but it exists. I see it every day in my relationships with my friends...

Of all the things I have learned in my life, the most important is that if I don't have romantic love in my life, I will be o.k. True, I will feel a little strange. True, I am used to having someone else there. An interesting thing has happened now. I'm comfortable alone. Really comfortable. I sit in my living room, with Arthur curled up beside me as I type this. The wind is howling outside something fierce. I'm sipping wine and writing these words, and even though I'm a little emotional, I feel good, and safe. I'm not lonely.

I am so aware of everything I have. I am so grateful for all of these blessings. The last year has been spent in stasis. A still place of healing; of listening to my heart and my soul. I feel like there is so much more of this to do, but I feel now that the time has come to set goals for myself. Goal-setting didn't really feel possible before now. It sort of felt like basic survival was all I could focus on. Now I feel like it is my duty to myself to map out a path for the next year. I feel like this could be exciting for me.

What is important is to continue to seek out pleasure in the every day beauty of the world to temper the pain I have endured in the last six years. To be gentle and kind with myself, and to honour my accomplishments in order to alleviate the guilt and shame that I still struggle with. To embrace all of the love I have in my life to arm me against those moments when I wake up at night afraid I will die alone and childless, or stranger still, when I wake up in terror that someone I may have feelings for might become a large part of my life and betray me and lie to me again.

On March 16th 2006 in the year that I turned 30, I went to see a psychic in Peterborough who completely rocked my world. Tonight, for the first time since the visit, I listened to the recording of my 45 minutes spent with him. He told me some really, really beautiful things, and he knew some very specific things about me that he couldn't have possibly known. If what he says is true, I must hold it close to my heart and let it serve as fuel as I take these next steps towards realizing my path in this life.

Each day, I seek to know myself better. At first I thought it was because I am narcissistic, but now I believe it is so I may use my insight to help other people. To step into the world with my eyes open, and use my unique sight to shed some light into other people's corners of the universe. I think this is the "why". I'm eager now to explore the "how".

Thank you universe, for an incredible year.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One Hour, No Power, and That's O.K.


Tonight I am cooking a romantic dinner for two that has absolutely nothing to do with my dog.

It's not just dinner. It's a romantic dinner. For two.

It has been approximately one year and two months since I last did that. In the meanwhile, I've cooked romantic dinners for friends, romantic dinners for families, and just plain dinners for two sans romance.

Tonight is romantic. And I'm cooking.

For those of you who don't understand the significance of this, you must note that I was born with an over-developed nurturing bone. The easiest and clearest way I know how to demonstrate my affections is to care for someone. My favourite way to care for someone is to make sure they are well-fed.

This is not to say I haven't cared for anyone in the last year and two months. I have. A few people, in fact. Something prevented me from laying it on. I cooked one or two intimate meals during that time, and realized almost as dinner hit the table that it was perhaps a bit hasty of me. In one instance, it was a simple "thank you". I realized what cooking means. What it can represent, and so I've held on to that one, mostly. Until tonight.

From this you can conclude that I am lowering the drawbridge a little. Just a little. It feels like the thing to do, in a simple, easy way.

Dinner will be served at this so-called "Earth Hour" when we are asked to kill all the hydro. This will force us to eat by candle-light. I've always thought that the most important things are easier to see by candlelight.

So there it is. Dinner for two. At the Fortress of Solitude.

Hm.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Little Bit of Brownie for the Soul


I tend to write more when I'm angsty or blue or distressed. That is most certainly not the case this last week. It might have a lot to do with the seasonal shift. It might have a lot to do with something else. It might have a lot to do with my fabulous job. At any rate, I don't want to be a one-note blogger, so I'm making an effort to write from this currently very happy place...

Today I happened upon this while eating some fiercely delicious leftover pizza concocted by my dear friend Joshua Hind. It made me smile, and it made my heart sing a little, and I wanted to share it with you:

From the Globe and Mail 'Lives Lived' section

BROWNIE FREEDMAN

Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, nurse, inspiration. Born March 20, 1909, in Winnipeg. Died Oct. 20, 2008, in Winnipeg after a fall, aged 99.

At 75, Brownie was tap dancing. At 80, she was playing tennis. At 991/2, she was planning her 100th birthday party. Nobody loved a party like Brownie - especially if it was for her.

She wore bright colours and wouldn't leave the house without lipstick. No Winnipeg winter day was too cold for her regular walk, and she was into healthy eating long before it was trendy. She overcame breast cancer at 54 and again at 71 without slowing down.

Until a month before her death she read two newspapers a day, watched CNN and read fiction voraciously.

Her real name was Claris but she was born with dark hair so she was called Brownie. It stuck.

Brownie graduated from the Winnipeg General Hospital as a registered nurse. She nursed there and also did private nursing. In 1927, the quiet, studious Sam Freedman asked her out. She was his first and only date. They married in 1934, although he hadn't saved the $25 he felt he needed to get married.

Their marriage was fabulous until Sam died in 1993 from Parkinson's disease. Brownie and Sam adored each other. They had three children - Martin, Susan and Phyllis. Their spouses, plus 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, expanded Brownie's inner circle of love. She was always on their side, no questions asked.

Brownie hosted parties with great style. As Sam's star rose - he became chief justice of Manitoba and chancellor of the University of Manitoba - Brownie was always the power behind him. He knew that. We were never sure she did.

Brownie and Sam had a great life together. They travelled annually to Israel for Hebrew University meetings, were involved in their beloved Winnipeg and spent summers at Clear Lake, northwest of the city.

This past year, Brownie reread the love letters Sam wrote during their courtship and went over the countless scrapbooks she'd made, reliving more than 60 years of life with him.

Brownie outlived most of her contemporaries but had many friends, some younger than her children. Her devoted friend Veronica Mensforth took her to appointments, shopped for her and eased her later years.

A month before her death, small strokes left Brownie sometimes confused. Then she broke her ankle - she chose a hot-pink cast - and faced a future in a wheelchair. "This is beyond a joke," she said. One afternoon she refused nourishment, and within 12 hours died peacefully. She left life as she lived it, on her own terms.

Brownie had a long and terrific run, inspiring family and friends with her positive attitude, her intelligence and her amazing zest for life.

Susan Freedman is Brownie's daughter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sire of Nations


When the light is pure and clear, and the sky an unmatched blue,
I walk in silent woods, I squish softly over the gently yielding earth,
The newly-supple earth made wet and heady from the thaw.

I breathe, slowly, tentatively. That ever-present hand rests gently against my chest,
(to steady me? to ready me? to still me in my tracks?)
I breathe deeper, and this hand, this halter slips through me.

My eyes crinkle against the return of the sun, but I cannot, I will not shield them.
The winter has been so long, and so dark, that the crisp, golden glow is welcome
A friend who has gone on a journey, and has so long been away
That their homecoming is like discovering them all over again.

I am discovering all over again...

The thaw brings the exuberant song of returning birds,
Brings mysterious green stirrings under the bed of long-dead leaves,
Brings the perfume of the cleansing rain,
the rushing of the streams and rising of creek waters
and the hope that was never very far away at all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Digging in My Heels



I am a bloated, anxious, pre-menstrual mess right now, and as luck would have it, I have a date tonight.

So what's a girl to do?

After three outfit changes, I found something that's cute, in a flattering colour, that doesn't make me feel like a street vendor sausage ready to burst out of it's casing. It's fairly shapeless, and has a plunging neckline, so I can at least work my swollen boobs in my favour.

This does nothing to change the fact that I will spend a good chunk of the evening feeling like Jabba the Hut.

Do men get to experience anything like this? I don't think I know a single guy who once a month looks in the mirror and wants to cry. Actually, it's not just looking in the mirror that's inspiring tears today. It's songs on the radio, subway ads, notes from friends. The wind.

I'm starving too. Like no amount of food can fill me up. I know in these moments to try to avoid sugar, because then I really spiral out of control. I get hyper, and babble like crazy. Then I crash in a heap, and need to be in bed, stat. This happened after brunch today. I couldn't stay awake on the subway, and then I slept for two hours with my cat on my head when I got home.

The plan is to have three top choices for dinner. All I can think about is a GIANT bowl of spaghetti with meatballs as big as my aforementioned swollen boobs. There is a PERFECT place on the way to the movie theatre too, but I know eating that many carbs will make me very sorry indeed.

Moments like this make me miss those blissful, domestic moments where I don't care about being seen in track pants, and I can just lay on the couch watching movies with someone, with the dog sprawled out unconscious. There are likely peanut M&Ms in this utopia too.

I have half an hour to figure out how NOT to appear like a total spazz this evening.

What I usually do in these scenarios is meditate on the ancient, pagan power of menses. (No, I'm not joking) I think of tribal women with flowing hair performing magical fertility rites by the light of the full moon. I think of Amazonian warriors, and how a little bloating and insanity would be welcome and celebrated with a roaring bonfire and the strapping young lads from the next island over. I try to find the power in something that has become so powerless and embarrassing in our culture, and I try to be grateful and easier on myself.

Oh, and I usually have a BIG glass of red wine.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Hawkeyes and Butterflies



Arthur and I went walking in the park. This activity is my one of my favourite things, and it is best done just Arthur and I. We notice things together; smells, sounds, new stirrings in the forest. The weather was extraordinary on this particular romp. Crisp, but clear. Not a cloud in the sky. Everywhere smelled like Spring.

Arthur loves me the most when he is free to roam, and to sniff things.

My heart felt happy, and hopeful, and fairly certain that this last year has been one of the most important.

On the way out of the park, I heard strange bird-sounds. Nothing I could identify. I looked up and saw high in the tree above two small hawks. They were perched on opposite branches, peeping away at each other. I looked for a nest, but there wasn't one. Yet. They were clearly courting; I could tell by the way the she-hawk tilted her head and listened to the male. I fell still and watched, unnoticed, feeling very lucky to witness these two very powerful creatures during such a tender moment.

I wonder what they say to each other?

I'll bet he isn't telling her he wants to fix her, or complete her. I'll bet he's not trying to rustle her feathers just to say he did. I'll bet he's not interested in getting in her head and breaking her down until she has no idea who she is anymore. (A she-hawk would claw the eyes out of anyone who tried such an audacious thing.)

I would bet, if I had to, that his courting sounds a bit like this:

"Hey there strong, free and fierce she-bird; capable of tearing the heads off of small woodland creatures and eating their still-beating hearts from their steaming cavities...I know that you can have your pick of any of the other hawks in this hood, but I think you're beautiful, and I think you possess an ancient wisdom that really moves me. I also think I'd hunt really well alongside you. I'd bring bits of shit to your nest that you would find really delightful and amusing, and I know I'd be fairly decent partner. Whaddya say we get it on for a while?"

Do you think, knowing that their talons could strike out eyes, and knowing that they can spot both predator and prey from miles away, that she-hawks get nervous when they like someone?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Twitterpated

Remember when this term had nothing to do with social media?

I love the idea that spring time is when everyone starts to tingle again. That there is something in the air that makes us want to shave our legs on a regular basis "just in case".

I spontaneously got a manicure and pedicure tonight after work. I feel pretty, and girly, and like I have a bit more bounce than usual. I feel like sweeping off the patio, and buying tulips for my living room. I feel like I'm done with the snow, the gray, the cold, and the feeling like I don't want to leave my house.

Bring on the sturdy rubber boots, beautiful ivory trench coat, delicate vintage umbrella and a fresh new hair cut.

I saw green mossy things poking up out of the ground this morning, and I feel like the world is filled with possibilities.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Emoticons Mean Something is Wrong


What have we become when we must take the time to draw little faces using punctuation marks instead of searching for the correct words to convey our meaning and intent? What does it say about us when we must use abbreviations to describe a response, instead of telling someone that we are delighted or amused by what they have just said to us?

I am thinking about the way we communicate today.

This weekend, I was reminded of how lovely it is to just discover someone while looking into their eyes, watching how the planes of their face change as they smile, and hearing their intonations and inflections as they reveal themselves through anecdotes and factual information. People only truly reveal themselves when they are face-to-face.

Email has replaced putting our hands to paper, and has replaced receiving actual letters that we can hold on to and cherish, or reflect upon later. Text messages have replaced phone calls. Facebook allows us to post as much or as little about ourselves as we like in the public domain. This blog has mostly replaced my journal, which I write in much less frequently.

Where is the romance in communication in our modern age?

You can flirt with email. You can send songs, and lyrics, and poetry. It is a new serenade I suppose. You can take photos of the world as you see it with your iphone, and instantly email these to whomever you are trying to woo. You can lay your heart out in Yahoo, and click send, offering up slices of your soul that may just find their way into someone's junk mail. You can create a profile of yourself on internet dating sites with carefully selected words, and photos, hoping that someone might fall just a little bit in love with you this way. Text messaging can become the new love note in your lunch box, or a prelude to a romantic liason.

Since just before December, I had been emailing someone I have never met in real life. He discovered me on an online dating site. (I have since deleted my profile, but that's another story for another time.) Our exchange has been fascinating, as we are both writers, and are both very comfortable expressing ourselves through our words. I'm now fairly certain that we will never meet in person, and part of me is very sad about that. Rather than dwell on the negative, I'm choosing to be grateful for what I consider to be an incredible kick-start to my writing. My letters were a direct link from my heart to paper, which brought my writing to a deeper level than what exists even here, in Schnooville. Because of this, I think I had developed some unrealistic expectations, but I'm mostly at peace with this now. Sometimes people just want to dip their toes into your soul. Getting their heads wet is not for everyone.

What is important here is the knowledge that real, true connection must happen in the physical world to be complete. This is what I need. My world has changed in this last year. I used to be able to speak about feelings and ideas. Now I am more comfortable to write about them. This is mostly true in a romantic context. Fortunately, I am still able to verbally communicate with my friends.

What would be wonderful, I think, would be to be able to look into a new set of eyes and say out loud some of the things in my heart. What would be wonderful, I think, would be for them to continue to look at me as they ask me to elabourate, and then tell me what is in their own heart. What would be wonderful, most wonderful, would be understanding and appreciation.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Low Rise Genes


This stopped me in my tracks today, and I had to share it. It was posted on a hydro pole outside of my office. Here's a close up, which I hope you can read:


Imagine being so frustrated with the opposite sex, you had to post a public notice? If you had to write a PSA about your dating frustrations, what would that look like? I'm sure anyone who is reading this blog regularly would be able to draft mine, but here it is, just for the record.

Men
Stop treating women like they are sub-human

An observation about the way women are often treated:

Men seem to really like to work their way into two things; a woman's pants, or a woman's head. Sometimes they try to get inside both. Very rarely are they concerned with getting inside a woman's heart or her soul.

Once inside either pants or head, they root around a little, pick up the odd personal effect and sniff it or shake it. They will usually leave a pair of dirty socks in a ball somewhere to find later, and the second the woman gets confused and tries to show them into the heart or soul, they vacate the premises immediately and then pretend they were never there in the first place.

If 85% of men are only interested in heartless, soulless connections with women that are only based on pants-less mambos, and cerebral canasta, and 95% of women are looking for a loving committed partner who will share their life with them, this will result in a lot of lonely, angry women. These women will probably never let you in their pants, and will act stupid and boring on purpose so you don't try to stick your fingers in their gray matter.

Most men make no effort whatsoever to ensure that women are being treated like they are more than novelty items or that women have opportunities to have their faith in the opposite sex restored.


In other news, in our country you can stab, hack up, decapitate, and eat chunks of another human being and never, ever have to serve jail time if you tell people that god asked you to do it. They're absolutely right, that IS criminally insane!

Seems to me like it's bed time. I think I sound a little cranky in this post.

(insert maniacal laughter here.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On Dodging



Here is what I am learning about myself; my intuition is never, ever wrong.

If there is something about a person that is making me uneasy, all I need to do is close my eyes and I can hear things. I can hear little snippets of the truth, their truth. Their emotional truth. It's hard to describe, because it comes in impressions. They are quick flashes. Thoughts that occur to me suddenly, but on a deep resonant level I know they are truth.

So how do I get into trouble?

Reflecting on the last eleven months of my life, I can see how my eyes and ears and gut have guided me away from bad situations over, and over. After that last one, that really bad one, we'll never be asleep that way again. The challenge remains the same, however.

Sometimes we just can't believe it is true.

It's common to ask questions when a deep, secret voice in your heart says things like:

"He feels like this was a big mistake, and now he's trapped and will resent you for this if you stay."

"She has kissed him and is currently trying to sleep with him behind your back. This will happen, and you will never really know."

"She is intimidated by you, and afraid of your vibrancy, so she needs you to be out of her environment."

"He will always love her, and will forever keep her in the picture, as well as try to keep you under his thumb because he likes this feeling of power."

"He was lying, and this lie has resulted in the same tragedy before."

"You are one of many who he has played this game with, and it's most certainly a game to him."

"He genuinely likes you, but will always be looking at the greener grass, and will never be content."

"He believes he could love you, but he knows that most of the appeal is in the distance and the mystery."

"He knows you're not really his type, but he still really wants to sleep with you, so he can speak of you as a novelty to friends and future lovers."

Of course, this intuition is a two-way street. Fortunately I can feel all of the love and good intention too. I'm very grateful for this, and perhaps I need to tune my ear to listen more carefully for these signals.

Right now, with no filter, it can be overwhelming.

What has happened? I'd like to offer an opinion or two:

a.) I behaved exactly as I was supposed to. I was like a ball of loosely wound yarn in the paws of a tired and battle-scarred alley cat. I unraveled fairly easily, (because that is the nature of yarn) and when the unavoidable knots occurred, the cat got bored; yawned and stretched, pawed again once or twice to test for signs of life, and then found a sweet, plump bird with a fractured wing. (likely on the other side of a chain-link fence with a perfectly cat-shaped hole.)

b.) I fell into my familiar guilty pattern of romanticizing situations and individuals. I attached feelings to surfaces with no adhesive, that really did not want any adornment, so fueled was I by my own agenda, overflowing with expectation. I completely and totally misinterpreted the context, and came away utterly dissatisfied with the ending of the story.

c.) All of thee above.

In other news, I have a friend who lives far away. This friend visits every now and again. We laugh a lot and it is lovely. Each visit makes me wonder why we are friends. There must be some explanation, right?

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Blue Hour


I will gather up my memories of you,
And with them I will build a tower,

Sweet thought upon sweet thought,

Until mine is a life of a dream-piler.


And in the spreading meadows below my tower,

The bees will know your name,
And fill the flower with happy nectar,
Until the valleys over-brim with ripened thoughts of you.


And I will whisper your name to the somber sea,
The hushed gray-lipped sea,

And it will murmur your name in low pebbled tones.
Your liquid name will roll upon ageless shores.


And I will sit in the deepening shadow-pool of my tower,

And grow numb in the fumes of the evening meadows,
And lift my face to the drowsy sea-breath that speaks your name.

All ancient children of my love for you.
GB, 2000


I promised myself that I would come home from three days away with a different state of mind. As I am rocking towards Toronto, I am pondering what this different state will be.

There are some things that I must let go of now.
There are new ways that I must look at myself.
There are sacrifices that I must make.

I feel that my greatest strength will continue to come from being still, and from focusing on my physical environment. There are such direct connections between my physical environment and my emotional landscape.

I will clean, and organize, and fill my fridge. I will plan meals, and rid myself of two large boxes of things I don’t need or want anymore. I will launder and mop and place fresh candles around. I will get simple flowers to put on the lovely round table at the top of the stairs.

My strongest urges are consistent. I want to climb naked into clean, crisp sheets with my outdated glasses perched on my nose, and pour over a good book until my eyes are forced to close. I want to hear my dog snoring happily at my feet. I want to rent sweeping costume epics and watch them alone after a delicious meal that I cook from scratch just for me. I want to write things that have nothing to do with what is inside my head and my heart.

My friends have the same advice for me;
Stop looking.
Stop wanting to find love.
Stop thinking about having a partner.
Stop being wistful when you see happy lovers on the street.
Stop caring.
Stop dating.
Stop.

Then it will magically happen.

I’m not quite there yet.
It’s hard for me to stop hoping, and waiting.
I’m not there yet, but I’m close.

As the train paused briefly at a station on the way home, a woman paced slowly along the track, peering into the windows. She grew increasingly anxious as she realized that the person she was waiting for was not on this train, and would not be getting off to meet her. Her face grew pained and drawn and her pace slowed to a resigned stillness. She shoved her hands in her pockets and closed her eyes. I watched the prairie amber of the sunset create a chestnut halo on her head, and I laid my fingers gently on the window.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You've Got to Know When to Hold 'Em


I had almost forgotten how much I love trains.

You can’t count the GO train, really. It doesn’t go fast enough to rock you the same way, and it smacks of commuter convenience. There is no sense of exciting destination, though I swear every time I’m on one, I can smell my mother’s roast beef slowly simmering away.

As a child, my grandmother used to take the train every summer to visit her family in Winnipeg. Once or twice, I got to go along for the ride. I have vague memories of sleeper cars, and faded photographic evidence of scenes passing by through windows, but I will never forget this rocking motion. There is also something achingly beautiful about the insistent call of the train’s horn.

I fantasize about taking a very old train on a very long trip somewhere through the mountains. I would wear a very smart travelling suit with a hat to match. Probably charcoal grey, with a teal silk blouse. I’d have kid leather gloves, and a valise, a vanity, and probably a hatbox. I think there would have to be a clever, tiny dog too. His name would be Cagney, and he would keep an eye on our stuff while I napped. It’s not possible to stay awake with this rocking motion. It’s just not.

I’ve met a man who drives trains. Actually no. He does not drive them. That’s the job of someone else. Though he’s explained this in great detail, I still don’t quite understand the difference. What I do understand is that he is the one who guides the trains gently, and carefully together in the yard, using all of the patience and careful judgment required for such a task. Trains can be stubborn, and some of them have been through serious abuse on their many journeys. Sometimes these old cars screech in protest, but he simply goes about the task, intent on piecing things together just so. Of course, he has described near-disastrous incidents involving too much speed and cars filled with highly combustible contents. People can seriously get hurt in those situations. I think it’s highly romantic that someone younger than me wants to spend his life workin’ on the railroad. All the livelong day. And, he also happens to be about a thousand miles away. Even when I am in Toronto.

The lights on this train can’t seem to decide whether or not they want to stay on or off. And the hostess (what do you call these people on trains?) found me a yogurt, which I was so excited about, until I opened it to find a layer of blue fuzz on the top. Sadness. Now it sits on my little food tray, untouched and mocking me.

My destination is Montreal, a city I’ve scarcely spent any time in. It’s strange that someone with such a love of all things French would be able to count on two or three fingers the number of times she has visited the Canadian Mecca for Frenchie goodness.

The trip is for a work conference, so it will be a busy one, but I have a free day on Sunday to explore. I truly wish that I could speak French. I made a promise to myself to learn once I got home from Paris, but like so many of these things that I want to do, it fell by the wayside.

So, this train journey will wipe clean my slate, like any voyage is wont to do. I will go, then return feeling fresh and open to greater possibilities. I’ve been in a little rut. Call it February blues, call it falling into old, bad patterns, but whatever one may call it, this has not been so good. When I left the house today, spring was most certainly in the air. I’m going to hang on to that fresh, clean smell until the buds appear on the trees. And I’m going to buy a beautiful pair of rain boots.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why Should I Care About My Thighs?


I promise to only do this once every few months...

Sunday's show was spectacular. It was exactly the kind of high-art, high-class, sexy, sultry, comedic, variety onslaught I've always dreamed about.

The resulting photos are phenomenal, of course, thanks to Ryan Visima. There are some really gorgeous shots of the guys and gals, but I found myself cringing at some of my own photos.
I know I'm too hard on myself, and that probably nobody else cares about my thighs the way I do. Or my tummy for that matter. In fact, I know that once the weather thaws and I can ride my bike to work every day, I will feel better in no time, but yeesh.

Why is it so hard for us to be objective about ourselves? I suppose that it might have something to do with the fact that we have back-stage access to all of the crap we carry around inside our heads.

I try not to indulge these feelings, because I think they are stupid. I do think it's important to share the fact that I feel them though. I grew up really, really awkward. I was bookish to the extreme, with an over-the-top vocabulary, and the giant glasses to match. My adolescence was spent basically unnoticed, until I hit about sixteen or seventeen. I don't think I've ever quite shaken the feeling of being a dorky kid. This is something I'm actually quite grateful for. I learned very young that there had to be other interesting things about a person, besides the way they look. I think my brother learned the same lesson.

We will always have that voice telling us "we can't", or "we're not good enough". The voice that mocks us with "who do we think we are"? As far as I can tell, in dealing with this voice, we have three choices; we can lay down in surrender to that, we can numb ourselves until we can't hear it any more, or we can embrace it, stoke it's angry little head, and tell it that it is loved.

I'm going to try option three for awhile. I'll let you know how that goes.

On a side note, would anyone like to school me in the proper use of the semi-colon versus the colon? A friend told me it would be a great cure for my penchant for run-on sentences.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Glamour Queen Hurricane


Billie Black, Photographed by Michel Mersereau

This is what I see as I sit in bed, breaking my own no-laptop-in-bed rule, surveying The Fortress.
It's almost show time, and my apartment is a sea of feathers, and sequins, and silky drawers. There are rhinestone encrusted shoes, wigs, boas, tiaras, scarves, and tassels as far as the eye can see.

Tomorrow night I have cleared my schedule so that I can meticulously work through the set list and put together each outfit for each number. This is one of the show elements I most enjoy.

If you walked into my apartment, and didn't realize it was mine, you would think someone's grandmother lived here. The majority of my furniture was made well before I was a zygote, and I have so many old things. In many ways, I really have created my own little world up here.

I have visions sometimes of becoming a gin-swilling Auntie Mame; growing old, and pickled, and still traipsing around in the same flowing robes and perfumed feathers. In this fantasy, I have a grizzled but distinguished cat who follows me everywhere, punctuating my worldly pronouncements with a throaty "Meowrrr". There is of course a young ward in my charge, perched on the brink of his burgeoning sexuality, to whom I wholeheartedly endorse any and all misadventures. (For the sake of having great stories when your sexy bits have become withered and pendulous)

Until then, I remain Schnoo. I am out of place in these times, yet completely at ease in them. I can smell the need for nostalgia, and communion, and personal interaction with strangers. I and my fierce posse of fabulous females endeavour to bring you slowly, and lovingly into our world where we are all friends. Where we are all celebrating the ability gasp breath. Where we are all beautiful, and tragic, and fragile, and free to explore. Where we are sacred and holy in our humanity.

All set to a jazzy tempo, of course.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Letter


Little cramped words scrawling all over
the paper
Like draggled fly's legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the
bare floor

Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing
in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth,
virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart
against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon.

Amy Lowell

Of True Hearts and Kind Words



1-12 The Guests.m4a


This song is dedicated to my Valentines. Both of them. Thank you for a very memorable Valentines day.

Is that it then? Perhaps it should be. I was starting to feel too much, and that just made no sense at all. It's so much easier for me to just turn away and say "enough".

Try explaining this to anyone on the outside. Try telling your very best girlfriends about such a strange connection, and watch as they arch their eyebrows when you get to the punch line.

But despite that, despite my own reservations, I know this is special. Or should I use the past tense?

On Friday night I felt like I have not felt since over a year ago. My heart just sort of froze, and my claws came out in a fluid swipe, everything went cold and hard. Only one other person has ever affected me so, and I guarantee that you would not like that comparison. What was clear to me was that I had inspired an equally powerful rush of negative feeling. Considerable, if you look at the limitations imposed on us.

We are feeling, and feeling a lot.

And so, realizing that I needed to take many slow deep breaths, I decided Saturday morning to be my own Valentine. I got all dolled up for myself, took myself to brunch with a beautiful woman, a lovely sushi supper with friends, and then dancing and all manner of craziness at the Orbit room. I succeeded in switching off my feelings for several hours, and in the exhaustion that remains I only now sense them creeping back in, but soon I will be asleep and safe again.

I will try not to think about that which I think too much about.

I will cocoon even deeper, and marvel at how thick and fuzzy my protective layer has become.

I will continue to be grateful for the tiny slice of you that inspired so much writing from me.

I will wake tomorrow, and feel more like me than I did today.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Suzanne - The Bloor Line, Spring on the Air, Full Moon




Suzanne - Leonard Cohen

Toulouse is watching me, perched on the back of the sofa. He loves Leonard just as I do. But classic Leonard is best. I worked for twelve hours today. I wanted to use these pages to write something terribly clever, and creative, but my face feels like mush, and I know the words will come out wrong. Still, I feel compelled to write something, and so with free verse on my side, I soldier on.

This was my horoscope today:
Don't be surprised if you end up having a falling out with one of your friends before the day is through. Your dreams could really help you better understand a few things today. And if you take the time to examine them, you might find that they'll help to reveal what you really ought to be doing right now

Item 1.) My day started out prickly. How could it not, with Sylvia Plath waved under my nose, and the electricity of the full moon under my ass? But this entire idea raises questions for me. Can you have a falling out with someone you don't really even know? I mean someone you have never even had a phone conversation with? Is that even possible?

Item 2.) I can't remember my dreams. A friend once told me this was because I was too focused on the earthly plane, and not in tune enough with the spiritual world. This may be true. At any rate, I hate this fact. Every now and then I can grab snippets of my dreams, but this is rare. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will put pen to paper instead of hitting snooze. Yes, that's what I'll do.

Item 3.) Work was great today. I attended an invigorating lecture, and it was yet another "I love my job" kind of day. I tried very hard to not be preoccupied with drafting the perfect response email. As it stands, I'm still not sure how to reply. (See Item 1)

Item 4.) After the lecture, and before heading to the theatre, I checked my voice mail. A florist left me a message because they were trying to deliver something to me (!) Because I knew I would spend the rest of the evening totally preoccupied with who might have sent flowers, I just flat out asked the woman at the flower shop when I called back. She was obviously embarrassed about reading the message in the card, which really intrigued me. She did tell me that they were from my old neighbour, who recently left town, and who recently came for a visit. This made me smile on the streetcar.

Item 5.) The rest of the night was spent picking over a falafel plate from Ghazale, sitting in the darkness of the Bathurst Street Theatre watching about twenty five teenagers sing and dance their hearts out in West Side Story. Highlights included watching them air kiss because they're saving it for "show time" (When I was a young actor we made out at ANY chance we could!), soaking blood soaked rumble tees in a bucket in the hopes that the stains would come out, and barely noticing that one of the actors had drawn on a full beard during intermission. Those kids make me smile too. They were a godsend last March, and they sure are beating the February blahs.

Item 6.) The perfect email response came to me on the subway ride home. (see Item 1 and 3) At first I was going to post another song, totally unrelated, but vivid in its imagery. Then, as I walked through the parking lot smelling the thaw, the song above came on.

I am hard wired for big love. It is the very fibre of who I am. I feel fortunate that life has thrown lots of "real living" at me to temper my innate romanticism, or I would be one of those truly ridiculous women with impossible standards and expectations. The very essence of my life is romantic and sensual. It is a part of everything I do, and if you refer to your records, you will probably realize that this is what made me appealing to you in the first place. There is no point in faulting me for it now. I won't waste it though. There are lots of people who are just not good at accepting love. I know this very, very first hand. I can see it right away now in a person. That way is strange and sad to me, and in those scenarios what made me so attractive at first is what makes people feel deeply defensive, and they then behave in all manner of strange ways.

The part I am only now starting to chew on is why people who have such a complex relationship with the idea of giving and receiving love are drawn to me. Or is it me who is attracted to them? Is it safer and easier to invest emotionally in places where it cannot ever yield a comparable return? Is there a very simple, psych 101 explanation of this phenomenon that is foreign to me?

How do people get to know one another? I mean really know each other? Is this possible on paper alone? Is there merit in stripping away the possibility of physical connection? Does it make the relationship more pure? Is it impersonal and contrived? Is it something best left to paper for fear of underwhelming disappointment once our base, fleshy reality can no longer be denied?

Can you really know someone through their letters alone, their songs sent to your inbox, their random quips posted on walls and in blogs? Do the people who read this blog really know me? Is this one great big platform where we can completely create the people we wish we could be? This could be like the ultimate in role-playing games. I paint a picture of a very specific type of woman, when in fact, I could be the exact opposite of this persona. Or perhaps I am both, and they are at war with each other sometimes, and in complete harmony at other moments...

Hmmm...my brain is humming. I should probably go to sleep now. I'm likely to soon start howling at the moon.

Speaking of head humming, you may recall some time ago we asked Brain to take a leave of absence. Well, it seems that Brain has now kicked everyone else out, and is only allowing Gut to stop in for brief conjugal visits. I'm really starting to hope that Heart has a good lawyer.

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Up

I woke this morning wanting only coffee. I haven't had any yet. Instead I was led on a journey through the heart and mind of Sylvia Plath.

Imagine giving so much of your love and life to a man who will suck the soul right out of you, lie to you, cheat on you, manipulate you, pull apart the fibers of your very constitution until you question who you ever were to begin with, and hate yourself for ever loving him in the first place!

Many women, (having been taught from day one how to empty their veins into the mewling mouths of emotional vampires) would put their head in the oven.

Some of us though, will hold hope in front of us like a damp wool blanket, and crawling slow and low to the ground, make our way through the fire and ash until we can breathe clean, clear air again.

I give you some Sylvia to chew on...

Spinster by Sylvia Plath
Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious april walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds' irregular babel
And the leaves' litter.

By this tumult afflicted, she
Observed her lover's gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower;
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then! --
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock; each sentiment within border,
And heart's frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here -- a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley --
A treason not to be borne; let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.

On Looking Into The Eyes Of A Demon Lover by Sylvia Plath
Here are two pupils
whose moons of black
transform to cripples
all who look:

each lovely lady
who peers inside
take on the body
of a toad.

Within these mirrors
the world inverts:
the fond admirer's
burning darts

turn back to injure
the thrusting hand
and inflame to danger
the scarlet wound.

I sought my image
in the scorching glass,
for what fire could damage
a witch's face?

So I stared in that furnace
where beauties char
but found radiant Venus
reflected there.

Tulips by Sylvia Plath
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage ----
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free ----
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Mad Girl's Love Song by Sylvia Plath
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"